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Unities of All Things

Heartfulness Inquiry
Dedicated to Hadrat Sultan Bahu who led me to my Lord
The Seven Steps | Remembrance | Other  Approaches | Suggestibility and Wisdom
Additional Precautions | Prayer and  Meditation | Reflections on Texts | Conclusion

O Glory of the All-Glorious!

In the first  chapter, Heartfulness Inquiry™  will be simply  explained. This practice, which is the heart  of Unities of All Things, may, God willing, assist some souls to become lovers of the Best Beloved, Baháʾuʾlláh (Arabic1, Bahāʾ Allāh, Glory or Splendor of God), and to prepare for the realms, merely reflected upon this world, beyond death. The book is, in a sense, a prayer or love letter to my dear and precious Lord. Joining the Baháʾí Faith is entirely separate, but you may  accept the invitation (al-daʿwa).

I now give you my heart. Unities of All Things is a private, not  an official, Baháʾí-related activity. Participation is informal, and there is no membership list. You are welcome, however, to sign the guestbook and share your experiences. My recommendation is to begin only with the chapter on the seven steps. This work has been designed as a reference and a resource guide. Simply reading it from beginning to end may be confusing. God bless you.

I. The Seven Steps

Meditation or “deepening” is entering into a relationship with attributes or qualities which we can identify by name. The first chapter of the book will offer some personal suggestions. Please introduce your own variations. Obviously, each of our needs and requirements may differ. Find what works just right for you.

For what it’s worth, after struggling for a lifetime to be emancipated from Autism, I unexpectedly discovered this heartfulness, or spiritually heart-centered, methodology. My closed heart began opening to multi-layered unities within unities in just a few months.

Heartfulness Inquiry  is an individual  practice. It is intended to produce an inner  peace or tranquility, to acquire the higher nature (in The Unicentric Paradigm), and to increase one’s attachment to God2. Please set aside some quiet time, and do your best to find yourself a private space. Whenever possible, turn your phone off. Then imagine, for purposes of the meditation, that your spiritual heart, or consciousness of attraction, is located somewhere around the chest.

You may begin with just one or two of the seven steps. They will be clearly and carefully explained after this paragraph. Little by little, as your comfort level increases, raise the number of steps. The exact order is not  important. Some of the steps may even be blended into one. When your eyes are closed, you may, from time to time, open them to check the clock. Alarms, which can obviously be distracting, are best avoided.

  1. Heartfulness.       Always  have a heart-centered awareness, in the moment, of your body and surroundings. The meditation can purify your creative stream of consciousness (thoughts, insights, and feelings). Be receptive to it  except as indicated. However, refuse to think negatively or obsessively by returning, quietly, to the meditation. Any of these exercises may  be used, if you find them helpful, in later steps or independently:
    • While seated or reclined, and wearing comfortable clothing, tighten and release, one by one, any tense muscles. Roll your eyes up slightly, and close them. If you like, meditate on the space between your eyebrows. Remain heartful of any senses and sensations, but do not become distracted by them. Breathe evenly, naturally, and, if you wish, deeply.
    • You might also touch yourself a few times on the forehead (an approach used for hypnotic induction). In order to become “centered,” refocused, and relaxed, practicing movement (also called kinesthetic driving), including dancing and yoga, benefits some people. In addition, it can sometimes be helpful to touch your body. For instance, loosly cup one or both hand(s) facing upwards. Join together the thumb and one of the other fingers. Now, you may be heartful of your pulse.
      buddhī mudra
    • Although you should, ideally, find a place where you are not likely to be disturbed, welcome any background noises without concentrating on them. There is a difference between sense impressions and reactions, such as annoyance, often attached to them. The heartfulness of meditative music and sounds (sonic driving) may be useful:
  2. Prayer.       Concentrate, whenever you wish, on silent, recited, or chanted prayer. Since meditation can amplify your emotions and sensations, it is crucial to create a positive  and devotional  attitude as the heart is opened.
    • The Unity (or “Essence”) of God, beyond all Names, is One3. You might pray to and love: God, Parent, Source, Light, Holy (or Wholly) Other, Beloved, Eternal, “Thou,” Cosmic Force, Higher Power, and so forth. The Unity of God is the Unity of the Prophets. You can speak to the Unity in the Name of any Prophet, including God’s Greatest Name, Baháʾuʾlláh.
    • Pour out, and surrender4, your heart. Share your hopes, your joys, and your sorrows. You are having an intimate and loving conversation with your dearest and most trusted Friend. If you need to unburden your heart, my suggestion is to do so to Baháʾuʾlláh, the Best Beloved. Avoid gossip and backbiting.
    • Likewise, you can pray to other members of the Supreme Concourse (al-Malāʾ al-Aʿlā), including dear ʿAbduʾl-Bahá5 (ʿAbd al-Bahāʾ). For that matter, heart-felt prayers, drawing entities together in love and eternal companionship, can be made to anyone  or anything. By loving beings and things, we know, see, and understand them. Shoghi Effendi (Šawqī Afandī) prayed to ʿAbduʾl-Bahá’s sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf (Persianized Arabic, Varaqiy-i ʿUlyā or Arabic, al-Waraqiy al-ʿUlyā). I frequently pray to the Universal House of Justice.
    • Discover your family (or comm-unity) in the world to come. For what it’s worth, I sometimes ask the network I call “my family”, a list of my parents and other departed souls (including deceased friends) which I have tacked on the wall, to comfort souls who have just left this world, or I will do so myself. I pray for my family, collectively or individually, and I dedicate various activities, especially my websites, to them. They are, I sense, all around me.
  3. Watchful Remembrance™.       Over and over again, silently recite, or listen to, any devotional word or phrase you like. You may also practice Breathing Baháʾuʾlláh™ 6. Trying  to focus can be stressful. Instead, focus upon your remembrance as much as possible. From the center of your heart, you are inwardly chanting love songs to your Best Beloved Lord. This activity and prayer can flow into one another.
    • Your eyes may be closed, and rolled up slightly, or left open (if you wish, while staring at an object). Before beginning and, again, when ending, briefly rest, quietly, with your eyes shut. However, when you are involved in hazardous activities, such as driving, be cautious or moderate in your remembrance.
    • Examples of remembrance from the Baháʾí Faith and other traditions are provided. As far as listening to chanting goes, these songs are excellent: file 1 and file 2.
    • To recall the remembrance, or its melody, it can be said vocally before  beginning. Maintaining a rhythm is more important than clear mental pronunication. The remembrance should be recited, chanted, or listened to in your mind, but lip syncing, or softly whispering along, is fine.
    • Creative thinking, including solutions to problems, may occur to you during the remembrance. Do not suppress them. Drive away negative thoughts by inwardly saying, “thank you,” and then returning, calmly, to the remembrance.
    • You may get into any of these habits: conducting your own inner orchestras and choruses (which did not work for me, personally, as someone with OCD), moving to the beat of the remembrance (even borrowing from Ṣūfī dancing or “whirling,” if you like), mentally  reciting it in rhythm with the physical heart (using the thumb’s pulse or a hand on the heart), and imagining the remembrance together with the spiritual heart (engraved upon, being written over, spoken to, reverberating within, and so forth).
  4. Forceless Remembrance™.       Before beginning and, again, when ending, briefly rest and relax, quietly, with your eyes shut. Remain open to your stream of consciousness only  at the final bullet. Although this step and the previous one are alternatives  to each other, both may be taken.
    • With your eyes closed, feel yourself mentally repeating the remembrance without  thinking about it. Begin verbally, if you like, but gradually perform the remembrance in complete silence  (with no  whispering or lip syncing). Examples are provided from the Baháʾí Faith and other traditions.
    • The remembrance may fade into the back of your mind, become hazy, and vary in speed, volume, or pitch, which are all fine. Do not  pressure yourself to clearly pronounce the sounds or to achieve a rhythm. The mind should be in a passive and receptive (almost nonchalant), not an active, state.
    • Allow any sensations, such as they are, to come and go. For instance, do not  control or intentionally follow your breath, and avoid focusing  on your heartbeat. Inwardly reciting the remembrance, perhaps for 15-20 minutes (morning and evening), is all that matters.
    • Do not  try to concentrate or worry about becoming distracted. Stray thoughts are inevitable, but the activity should be forceless. As you notice your mind wandering, calmly and smoothly resume. You are tossing a tiny coin into the wishing well of your heart. Each time the coin vanishes, you toss one in again.
    • These are extra  activities: After finishing the above process, silently recite, every fifteen seconds or so, a short and uplifting quotation7. Focus on the spiritual heart. Then read from a holy text. Conclude by inwardly reciting one or more remembrances while becoming heartful of the Attributes (Qualities or Virtues) of God and the attributes of various created things8.
  5. Contemplation.       Whenever you like, apply the devotional receptivity, acquired through the previous steps, to one or more of the heart-centered contemplations, or creative imaginations, below. You can also prepare your own. Focusing on extrasensory perception (ESP) or psychic powers is discouraged.
    • You contemplate on His Blessed Presence Baháʾuʾlláh as the Best Beloved (al-Maḥbūb). He, the individual Soul, is your personal  God and the dearest Adored One of your life. Feel Him, and His Perfections, enter your heart. Make Him your Lover. Hug Him tightly, kiss Him, stroke His hair, and speak to Him. In life, nothing  ultimately matters, in my view, except for loving the Best Beloved. I anxiously hope to meet Him on the other side. Taṣawwur al-kamālāt (conceptualizing the perfections) is the term I coined for this practice.
    • You heartfully envision an image of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, His eyes in particular. Gradually, conceptualize only His perfections or virtues. If you wish, feel your heart center becoming susceptible, near, and attracted to ʿAbduʾl-Bahá’s example. Firmness in the Covenant of Baháʾuʾlláh includes loving its Center, ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, peace be upon Them. Similar exercises can be performed with other holy, or dearly loved, persons.
    • You smile while contemplating the heart center. To put it a different way, without thinking how to do so, smile at your heart. However, when working, exercising, and so on, you may simply keep your attention on the heart center. “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalms 46:10).
    • Your heart glows and throbs with a warming light. Visualize, perhaps, a ray from the sun (symbolizing the Sun of Reality) filling your heart and purifying you with light. You could also picture shining light pouring, from the heart, into an afflicted area of your body (with one hand placed on it) or directed towards someone who is ill or suffering.
    • For eternal relationships, deeply understand, and learn from, souls, in this world, in the world to come, or in the Inner World of dreams (the Archangels). Heartfully contemplate them as individualized virtues or attributes. In full embrace, speak to them, kiss their heads, stroke their hair. Imagine them near your heart center, folded into yourself, or the light from your heart surrounding them. Repair negative feelings. Since love is the door to knowledge, the more souls one loves, the better. Focusing on departed beings (including Prophets, deeply loved ones, and those unknown) and on Archangels may  draws them, and the world to come, closer and prepare for a more direct meeting. Pray silently.
  6. Reflection.       This word refers to turning one’s thoughts back to a subject. From, even during, the prior steps, the heart center can become sensitive to the divine guidance of love. Knowledge is a result of love. Ask, pause, and listen. One asks the heart a question, remains silent, and listens for a possible answer. Then, over the course of the day, seeing with the eyes of the heart, continue to wait, in expectancy, for answers to such questions as:
    • Is the sensitivity (or comfort level) of my heart center higher or lower when I consider this decision or engage in this behavior? Are any services now required of me or does my friend have any spiritual, or physical, or emotional needs? Can I sense the characteristics of the angelic souls guiding me? What do my eyes feel like while watching (or desiring to watch) a particular television program?
    • How do my higher and lower selves react, and which spiritual virtues (attributes) am I acquiring when I have a certain sensation, as I read a religious text, while I am “deepening” (reflecting) upon a Baháʾí topic, when I am teaching the Baháʾí Faith? Learning about oneself, through meditation, is discovering one’s attributes.
    • What can I learn by individually studying a particular subject? Reflect with your heart, not only with your mind, on the research questions you are asking. Become an explorer of the kingdoms of existence (divine, human, animal, vegetable, and mineral) and the beings and things within them. Participation, with reflection, improves observation. Engage in participant-observation (ethnography). If time seems to pass quickly, one may not be learning and exploring new ideas.
    • One can reflect, while taking notes, on the words or concepts contained in reflections and in dreams. Then, one may repeatedly reflect on the reflections. Layer upon layer, or over and over again, one goes deeper and deeper.
    • Journaling, blogging, poetry writing, storytelling, autobiographical writing, painting, photography, and other forms of expression are often helpful tools for reflective meditation. Truth is what one discovers through being virtuous. Furthermore, for empirical research, this step may be useful in research design.
  7. Service.       The virtues acquired through contemplation are put into action using moderation or wisdom. Act heartfully  and intentionally, not merely out of habit. Pause, think, and make a new choice. Be pro-active, not re-active (repeating the same unvirtuous action over and over again).
    • Serve God through serving His servants. To be of service to others, and to lessen their suffering, is the highest human station. We all share in the attributes of the unity or essence of humanity. Service, and regularly checking our motives, reminds us of it. Although the Prophets and Their chosen ones can speak with the Voice of divine Authority, including condemnation, we should only speak as servants.
    • Reflection and service might be compared to inhaling and exhaling virtues. If we receive spiritual direction, but ignore it, we have not completed the breath of life. However, only  follow the illumination received, during reflection, after comparing it with the Baháʾí texts. Gnōsticism should be avoided. If inner knowledge was sufficient, or authoritative, the Prophets would not have revealed the Word of God.
    • ʿAbduʾl-Bahá reportedly said, “... look at me, follow me, be as I am ....” Relate to others only  from the heart. For instance, if someone asks you a spiritual question, reflect deeply upon, look into, her heart. Then respond to the heart, not to the words. We cannot read minds, but we can see attributes.
    • Needless to say, service, or giving from the heart, should not be mistaken, on the one hand, for being servile (“bootlicking”) or, on the other, for being bullied, manipulated, and treated like a doormat. In my view, world unity is the divinely revealed essence of humanity which was created and revealed by His Blessed Presence Baháʾuʾlláh. We discover that unity together. Serve virtuously.
    • Put the research design into practice. Always, however, be ethical. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Perhaps one should assume that most events are the result of free will. That way, one might make more responsible choices. Objectively, however, a constellation of factors impacts everything we do.

In addition, some writers recommend meditating while seated, no sooner than two hours after meals, and at least two hours before bedtime. The explanations frequently provided are: that an individual is more likely to fall asleep while lying down, that the exercises may interfere with metabolism and digestion, and that meditation can decrease tiredness. Although none  of these issues creates any noticeable problems for me, your own experiences may, of course, differ. Therefore, it cannot hurt to keep these recommendations in mind, especially when first starting  the meditation.

He [Shoghi Effendi] thinks it would be wiser for the Baháʾís to use the Meditations given by Baháʾuʾlláh, and not any set form of meditation recommended by someone else; but the believers must be left free in these details and allowed to have personal latitude in finding their own level of communion with God.
From a letter, dated January 27, 1952, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí.
There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the [Baháʾí] teachings, no plan, as such, for inner development. The friends are urged–nay enjoined–to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual. The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so.
From a letter, dated January 25, 1943, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí.

Meditation is, similar to many learning experiences throughout our lives, like riding a bicycle. When starting, the chances of being balanced on two narrow wheels appear slim to none. We learn, however, by steps. First, we hold the bike in our hands. Second, we raise the kickstand. Third, while grasping the handlebars, we move one leg over to the other side of the vehicle. Fourth, one foot after the other, we press our feet against the pedals and begin pumping them in circles. Before we know it, the original fuss appears foolish. Riding a bike is easy. As with meditation, we can forget the steps and improvise.

Return to the table of contents.

II. Baháʾí-Related Remembrance and Examples

From the West to the East, popular culture, particularly advertising, has promoted the distractions of forgetfulness, not the moments of remembrance. Perhaps before concerning ourselves too much with the lives of others, we first need to remember the life of the spirit within each of ourselves. In the quotation below, ʿAbduʾl-Bahá discussed the importance of the constant remembrance of the Greatest Name or “Supreme Manifestation,” Bahāʾ (Glory, Light, or Splendor). Its various forms include Yā Bahāʾ al-Abhā  (O Glory of the All-Glorious) and Allāhu Abhā  (God is Most Glorious).

The Greatest Name should be found upon the lips in the first awakening moment of early dawn. It should be fed upon by constant use in daily invocation, in trouble, under opposition, and should be the last word breathed when the head rests upon the pillow at night. It is the name of comfort, protection, happiness, illumination, love and unity.
I hope that thou mayest become informed of the concealed mystery and recondite symbol of the stone of the Most Great Name .... The use of the Greatest Name and dependence upon it, cause the soul to strip itself of the husks of mortality and to step forth freed, reborn, a new creature...."
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, United States Supplement to Baháʾí News. Number 80, Page 2. October, 1964. Cited in Lights of Guidance, number 892.

The list provided below contains only a few  possibilities for the quiet remembrance of holy names, and brief silent or vocalized prayer, from various Baháʾí texts. Perhaps you can discover others.

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III. Other Approaches

Transformative applications of language can be found in a variety of religious, as well as secular, contexts. This chapter will discuss some of them. A listing of several links pages on different approaches used in meditation is at the end of the chapter. If these subjects do not interest you right now, skip to the next chapter or return to the table of contents.

Aside from the word-based activities which have been listed above, receptivity may, to varying degrees, result from the following disciplines:

Immediately below are several pages of links to web-based resources on meditation, mysticism, and related topics:

Return to the table of contents.

IV. Suggestibility and Wisdom

There is, in my view, a universal web of interdependence which connects the beings within the human kingdom and, beyond them, the beings and things within all the kingdoms of existence. These relationships, as I see them, express the Unity of God. As a sociologist, I focus upon the attributes of the unity of humanity. Among those attributes is suggestibility. By enabling us to love and care about one another, to form social ties, and to absorb information, suggestibility makes us human. Unfortunately, it can be manipulated by others, as in criminal confidence schemes and in unethical salesmanship.

This chapter will explore suggestibility. It has also been referred to by other names, including impressionability and dissociation. Suggestibility may result from word repetitions, dependencies on certain substances or behaviors, psychic phenomena, and other activities. The effectiveness of advertising campaigns, for instance, shows us how easily the heart can be misguided. Much of the resulting “mind control,” so to speak, occurs without the individual even noticing it. Taking proper safeguards against any possible emotional “triggers,” while sometimes challenging, is obviously important.

Hypnotism hath a weak influence over bodies, but hath no result. But the power of the Kingdom of God is great. If thou canst, endeavor to obtain a share of that power.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Tablets of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá Abbás. Volume I. Page 169.
What comes under the healing of psychic practices ʿAbduʾl-Bahá has warned us against; but any form of auto-suggestion or hypnotism which is used by medical science and by properly qualified physicians we are free to take advantage of, if we feel that the doctor using such practices is qualified and will not abuse his rights.
From a letter dated February 15, 1957, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 977.

In religious studies, the following description by James George Frazer, which is analogous to superstitious Jungian synchronicity, is referred to as sympathetic magic:

The House of Justice fully appreciates that in... and ... there are many instances of individuals being affected adversely by the psychic arts of other people. This is an observable phenomenon in many partsof the world and must, as you say, be taken into account by those who would teach the Faith. The important thing for Baháʾís to understand is that the influence of such “arts“ is dependent on the conviction, even the subconscious conviction, of the person affected and, similarly, the power of the “priests” to overcome the influence is likewise an outcome of the sufferer’s conviction that it is from the “priest” that he or she will be able to obtain help.
From a letter, dated August 30, 1984, written on behalf of Universal House of Justice to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1768.
Side by side with the view of the world as pervaded by spiritual forces, primitive man has another conception in which we may detect a germ of the modern notion of natural law or the view of nature as a series of events occurring in an invariable order without the intervention of personal agency. The germ of which I speak is involved in that sympathetic magic, as it may be called, which plays a large part in most systems of superstition. One of the principles of sympathetic magic is that any effect may be produced by imitating it.... If it is wished to kill a person an image of him is made and then destroyed; and it is believed that through a certain physical sympathy between the person and his image, the man feels the injuries done to the image as if they were done to his own body, and that when it is destroyed he must simultaneously perish.
James George Frazer, The Golden Bough. Retrieved on August 1, 2013.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to form any correct idea of these objects [flying saucers] because they behave not like bodies but like weightless thoughts.... [T]here do seem to be authenticated cases where the visual observation was confirmed by a simultaneous radar echo....
As a psychologist, I am not qualified to contribute anything useful to the question of the physical reality of Ufos. I can concern myself only with their undoubted psychic aspect ....
Carl Gustav Jung, Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal. New York: Routledge. 1997. Pages 149 and 154.

In many cases, a person may even come to believe that purchasing a certain product, or desiring a particular service, was completely a result of personal preference. Then again, exploitation cannot be avoided, across the board, merely by a keener mental awareness. The key is the devotion of the heart to the Best Beloved, Baháʾuʾlláh, and a longing for the Kingdom of God. One should also remain spiritually detached from the physical plane of human existence, while striving, figuratively, to bury  one’s willful or insistent lower self (an individual’s “ego”) in the dust of love and service to others.

It is certainly the case that sins are a potent cause of physical ailments. If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural, inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity.
But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites, and he would not content himself with simple foods. Rather, he prepared for himself food that was compounded of many ingredients, of substances differing one from the other. With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life. The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá. Pages 152-153.

Additionally, many meditators complain, at some point down the road, that their spiritual practice, which once was highly satisfying and pleasurable, has become burdensome and stressful. The ecstasy or relaxation, which they enthusiastically awaited at every meditative session, has largely vanished. Frequent headaches are sometimes reported. However, these problems are not, in my view, a result of the meditation itself. Rather, the heart, after it has been has been opened wide through a regular devotional activity, can become extremely receptive, suggestible, and sensitive. From the standpoint of suggestibility, negative influences should be hindered.

Beginning at that point, a constant exposure to certain types of negativity may not only decrease a person’s level of spiritual happiness. One might develop such feelings as irritability, fear, anger, or anxiety. Influences which went, in the past, largely unnoticed are now evident. Television news programs, as an illustration, are often deliberately designed  to provoke emotion and mass behavior. By remaining alert to these potential pitfalls, one can, if need be, make appropriate adjustments in one’s activities.

Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one’s soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illuminate the lamp of thy heart by the light of love.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Tablets of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá Abbás. Volume 3. Page 673.

Regarding meditative experience in particular, focusing on internal and external sounds may sometimes, if taken to an extreme, becoming psychologically obsessive or increase one’s suggestibility to sound. The imaginary sound current,” which can result, might resemble tinnitus. Unfortunately, focusing upon, or worrying about, the sounds may simply make them stronger. My advice is to: reduce or schedule the remembrance, breathe deeply while briefly plugging your ears, chant out loud, or, in order to interrupt the pattern of thought, turn various types of sound on and off several times. Above all, please relax.

Through a controversial marriage of neuroscience and spirituality, neurotheology (from the Greek for neural God talk) has studied, beginning around 1994, the complex relationships between mysticism and the human brain. The brain now appears to have neuroplasticitity or responsiveness to thought and behavior. Some of the discipline’s researchers have explained suggestibility, in part, by increased: alpha and theta brainwaves, parietal lobe activity, and serotonin. Additionally, the applied area of psychonautics (from the Greek for mind navigation) covers the full range of activities and substances intended to produce altered states of consciousness and peak experiences.

I personally question, however, the common usage of the magical kuṇḍalinī (Sanskrit for coiled serpent power ), in the twenty-first century, as a universal explanation for spiritual experiences. From my own readings, the kuṇḍalinī of medieval India is a mythical description of serotonin, which is one of the neurotransmitters or chemicals acting within the human nervous system. Serotonin, associated with feelings of happiness and inner peace, can be stimulated, among other ways, by clear mental focus and by a class of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

Nevertheless, the “raising” of the kuṇḍalinī from the base of the spine, as an expression of the Goddess Śaktī (Sanskrit for ability or power), is alleged to be the source of receptivity (suggestibility), ecstasy, and, perhaps resulting from serotonin-induced confusion and mania, psychic powers. In my view, while developing the suggestibility of the heart, or spiritual happiness, should be balanced and controlled, suggestibilities to dangerous psychic neurological conditioning should be strictly  avoided. I humbly, but strongly, advise against  all forms of psychic phenomena, including:

Suggestibility, therefore, presents us with a dilemma. Through various means, including the self-hypnotic beat of word repetitions and following the breath, a practitioner can attain a highly sensitive and altered awareness, intense levels of ecstasy (al-wajd), and deep relaxation. However, in the process of developing one’s sensory imagination (creative visualization, auditory memorization, and so on), some meditators may fail to distinguish divine inspiration from wishful thinking, projections from past events, and even daydreams of exalted authority or position.

The conflicting claims to succession, in the power structures of some sacred traditions might, in many cases, be self-fulfilling prophecies. They demonstrate the effects of personal suggestibility upon trance-like perceptions, including dreams, near-death experiences, astral travelings (or out-of-body experiences), and other visionary states. That is to say, when multiple religious leadership candidates depend upon subjective or inner  knowledge (Greek, gnōsis), they can fantasize themselves as occupying any position they wish. The result is the contradictory state of gnōstic self-delusion:

Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing! Whosoever interpreteth this verse otherwise than its obvious meaning is deprived of the Spirit of God and of His mercy which encompasseth all created things. Fear God, and follow not your idle fancies. Nay, rather follow the bidding of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Wise.
Baháʾuʾlláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Page 346.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá says that the main difference between the gnostics and the religionists is that the gnostics maintain the existence of only two worlds, the world of God and the world of the creature. The prophets, however, maintained the existence of three worlds: the world of God, the world of the Will or the Word, and the world of created things. The prophets, therefore, maintained that a knowledge of God is impossible. As ʿAbduʾl-Bahá says, man can never know God or even imagine Him. If he does, that object is not God but an imaginary idol.
From a letter, dated November 29, 1929, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1724.

For the individual and for those around her, any form  of gnōstic self-delusion can have disasterous consequences. False claims to esoteric, or hidden, awareness are often rooted in varying amounts of egotism and pride. The afflicted individual can, by claiming special revelation  or unusual insights, justify, even to herself, behaviors which the majority of people would regard as monstrous. The followers she might have  could, based upon their acceptance of her spiritual authority and knowledge, easily excuse the most outrageous conduct, such as abuse, deceit, and manipulation.

Self-delusion can be overpowering. Many ordinary  individuals, throughout history, have falsely claimed to be messiahs or prophets of one sort or another. Through my work as a sociologist of religion, I have personally been acquainted with a few. Clearly, some people who fit the mold have conscious hidden agendas, but most of those I have known appeared sincere. Still, this world is only a preface. The majority of the text has not been written and revealed. My concern is for the unimaginable anguish upon suddenly discovering, when arriving in the hereafter, that one had been so horribly mistaken.

As protections for our immortal souls, both caution and humility appear to be justified. Hypnotic spiritual  intoxication (al-sukr) must continuously be balanced with the sobriety (al-ṣaḥw) of obedience (al-ṭāʿa). Ultimately, the Baháʾí Sacred Texts, the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi, and the elucidations of the Universal House of Justice are the standards for examining the accuracy of one’s personal intuitions. Although meditative receptivity is important, its object should be grounded  in the Covenant (al-ʿAhd), not in flights of fancy, and centered  upon the Names and Attributes of God.

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The Secret of Sion. Publisher’s promotional material on this book by William Henry.

Reliance on gnōsis, magic, and divination shift the center of power from a priesthood and scriptures to the individual. Dominant systems of authority are not trusted. Gnosis, magic, and divination. India’s Caitanya (1486–1534 A.D.), who opposed strict caste divisions, successfully replaced Vedanta with devotional populism. He atracted both Hindūs and Muslims. These anti-establishment movements have internal contradictions. Without scriptures or a system of priestly succession, a movement will generally disintegrate soon after the death of its charismatic founder. The anti-establishment movement has itself to become institutionalized or routinized in order to survive.

The development of a genuine  humility, as one explores one’s own heart, is extremely important. Paradoxically, I have heard some people attempt to justify conceit by saying something like, “I don’t believe in false humility.” However, the opposite of, or the remedy for, false humility is not, in my opinion, showing off. The opposite of possessing false humility is developing humility. False humility is making believe one is humble, while inwardly one is really being vain or arrogant. The behavior is insincere and dishonest. Perhaps the individual is trying to impress others by posing or by putting on a show.

Furthermore, covenantal authority should, in my view, be the standard for spiritual knowledge. Once, through an independent investigation of truth, an individual has accepted the Authority of the Best Beloved, one’s primary duty becomes obedience and submission to His Will. Whatever He ordains and reveals is, by definition, real or valid. Anything He prohibits or repudiates is, therefore, false. Contradictory human standards of understanding become irrelevant. Essences exist because ʿAbduʾl-Bahá says so. This principle of absolute relativism is, it seems to me, one of the most significant dimensions of divine Revelation.

This is the testimony which He, Himself, hath ordained; greater proof than this there is none, nor ever will be: “This proof is His Word; His own Self, the testimony of His truth.”
Baháʾuʾlláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán. Pages 91-92.
Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. This is, verily, an evidence of His tender mercy unto men. He hath endowed every soul with 106 the capacity to recognize the signs of God. How could He, otherwise, have fulfilled His testimony unto men, if ye be of them that ponder His Cause in their hearts. He will never deal unjustly with any one, neither will He task a soul beyond its power. He, verily, is the Compassionate, the All-Merciful.
Baháʾuʾlláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Pages 105-106.
Repudiating the claim of any religion to be the final revelation of God to man, disclaiming finality for His own Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh inculcates the basic principle of the relativity of religious truth, the continuity of Divine Revelation, the progressiveness of religious experience.
Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come. Page 108.

The major problem, as I see it, with gnōstic self-delusion and any practice based upon it, such as spiritualist (or spiritist) mediumship and modern-day channeling, is the separation of knowledge from love. Of course, many people involved in these activities would flat out reject that statement. To them, the quest for inner knowledge is  an act of love. However, spiritual knowledge, in my view, is basically an expression, a type perhaps, of love. From one perspective, spiritual love and spiritual knowledge are virtually identical. Seeking spiritual knowledge, for its own sake, can lead to self-delusion.

The Universal House of Justice does not see itself obliged to prescribe a new scientific methodology for Baháʾí academics who make study of the Faith, its teachings and history the subject of their professional activities. Rather has it concentrated on drawing the attention of these friends to the inadequacy of certain approaches from a Baháʾí point of view, urging them to apply to their work the concept which they accept as Baháʾís: that the Manifestation [Prophet] of God is of a higher realm and has a perception far above that of any human being. He has the task of raising humankind to a new level of knowledge and behaviour. In this, His understanding transcends the traditions and concepts of the society in which He appears.
From a letter, dated February 8, 1998, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual Baháʾí.

In my opinion, channeling experiences are fairly close to Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone’s Voice Dialogue:

One of the most used techniques to explore the inner workings of the mind is known as voice dialog. This is a simple process where we become intoned with the mind and the way it thinks and processes information. We are able to gain insight into the many selves that dwell within us and to incorporate their thoughts and beliefs better into our self-direction. This tool is very effective in helping us to understand ourselves and motivate ourselves to progress....
You should aim to establish a connection with the various parts of your psyche and to identify with these parts. Gaining awareness of these parts will lead to knowledge of how they affect your life. You are then in full control of yourself as you are now in charge rather than having one of your preconceived self-concepts doing the talking for you. This should be the aim of all persons serious about seeking knowledge.
Floyd Bogart, Development of Self and Mind in Voice Dialogue.

The following listing contains a sample of movements which began through alleged supersensory intuitions. No judgments will be made here regarding their truth value. Interested readers can pursue these subjects, and examine their merits, in depth:

  1. The literature of Sūrat Śābda Yoga (Arabized Sanskrit for union through attention to the word) vividly describes progressive spiritual grades, each associated with particular mental pictures and internal sounds, as the meditator ascends on the path. Supporters of this method sometimes describe it as an encouragement of intentional near-death and out-of-body experiences. Students are taught that, after a certain point, they will meet their master on the inner planes and be taught directly by her or by him. Similar kuṇḍalinī-type suggestibilities, to sound repetitions or visual images, are advocated by:
  2. There is also a type of Ṣūfī chain (silsilah) or lineage called ʿUwaysī. Here, authority is thought to be conveyed, from the world of spirits (al-ʿālam al-arwāḥ), by an outwardly and physically unrelated (whether living, deceased, or even legendary) entity. These transmissions are believed to be revealed, commonly, through inspired dreams (manāmāt) and visions (ruʾan). For example:
    • Gohar Shahi (Persian and Urdū, Guhar Šāhī, Jewel Royal; 1941-2001?) claimed to receive an ʿUwaysī transmission from Ḥaḍrat Sulṭān Bāhū (approximately 1628-1691).
    • “A Shaykh is not worth more than you are, and they may or may not be a better person than you may. This author can attest, from his intimate knowledge of Shaykhs and their personal lives that frequently their personal lives are in more disarray than your own. This is not to say that there are not, in fact, real Shaykhs in the world. However, you must listen to your Inner Shaykh, and follow his or her guidance.”
      Laurence Galian, Dervish Alchemy: A Treatise Exploring the Sacred Science of Dhikrullah with a Detailed Study of the Seven Lataif along with Guidance for the Dervish. St. Louis, MO: Privately published. 2009. Page 154.
    • “In this workshop we will invite our own inner guide to have a greater presence in our lives. We will contemplate Jung’s experience of Philemon, study images of the guide from various sacred traditions, listen to the wisdom and humor of Sufi tales and poems, and practice meditation and active imagination to make deeper contact with our own inner guide.”
      Workshop: The Inner Guide: Wisdom from the Archetypal Self.
  3. The Prophets, in my view, are not channels. They reveal Their Substance of divine Attributes. Channeling is a category of mediumship which is mostly connected with the movement commonly called “New Age.” Instead of contacting a deceased loved one (as in a séance), an individual claims to be a transmitter for angels, ascended masters, extraterrestrial (ETs), or other nonearthly beings. This self-hypnotic practice can, I feel, become mentally addictive. The channel’s followers might serve as reinforcers (or “enablers”). The majority of the “channeled” materials I have read appears far more gnōstic, providing piles of information, than heart-centered. Beginning with Seth, many of them, perhaps hypnotically and unintentionally, plagiarize from one another. However, if you go back to earlier channeled works (say, Oahspe and Urantia), there is considerably more variety. Here is a fairly representative list:
  4. There have also been many channels and other visionaries within the Christianities. These include:

To my understanding, the term, psychic faculties, refers to the willful and suggestible (or self-hypnotic) development of mystical experiences This type of mystical volition is apparently intended for the world to come, as a celestial communication and transportation vehicle, a ghostly psychic field, or an orb-like chalice of pure light. Psychic faculties are not intended for this plane of existence. Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary (October 25, 1942):

On every daring adventurer in the service of the Cause of Baháʾuʾlláh the Concourse on high shall descend, “each bearing aloft a chalice of pure light.”
Shoghi Effendi quoting Baháʾuʾlláh, Messages to America. Page 18.
Truly mystical experiences based on reality are very rare, and we can readily see how dangerous it is for people to go groping about in the darkness of their imagination after the true thing. That is why, as you point out, we are warned against all psychical practices by the Master [ʿAbduʾl-Bahá].
If we are going to have some deeply spiritual experience we can rest assured God will vouchsafe it to us without our having to look for it.
From a letter, dated October 25, 1942, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1742.

Since we all share the rational faculty, or human spirit, there is no need to develop psychic powers. Spiritual understandings, the Apostle Paul’s gift of tongues, occur naturally among souls. Indeed, ʿAbduʾl-Bahá clearly emphasized the danger of cultivating these faculties in this world. Perhaps, by calling them forces, He was indicating the forced nature of these experiences:

To tamper with psychic forces while in this world interferes with the condition of the soul in the world to come. These forces are real, but, normally, are not active on this plane. The child in the womb has its eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., but they are not in activity. The whole purpose of life in the material world is the coming forth into the world of Reality, where those forces will become active. They belong to that world.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, from the notes of Miss Alice Mary Buckton (1867-1944), revised by ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, in J.E. Esslemont, Baháʾuʾlláh and the New Era.
What ʿAbduʾl-Bahá always pointed out in this matter is that these psychic powers were not to be used in this world, and that, indeed, it was dangerous to cultivate them here. They should be left dormant, and not exploited, even when we do so with the sincere belief we are helping others. We do not understand their nature and have no way of being sure of what is true and what is false in such matters.
From a letter, dated March 4, 1946, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1735.

In my humble opinion, it is impossible for ordinary individuals, though certainly not for the Prophets and God’s chosen ones, to reliably predict the future. People try and try again. New apocalyptic proclamations are being made from day to day. None have panned out. Indeed, many prognosticators have been embarrassed by repeated failures. Good luck or fortune can only take an individual so far. The reasons can, I think, largely be attributed to the well-known gambler’s fallacy. Namely, winning streaks and losing streaks are, statistically, nothing more than chance. Predictions, moreover, can be made for populations, not for individuals.

Perhaps the law of probability will be irrelevant in the great realms to come. In this world, however, all that exists in the future, from a linear human perspective, is a sea of probabilities (and possibilities). We are confronted, throughout our earthly journeys, with tides of options and events. The waves issuing from a single decision can alter everything. Indeed, any change in flow, no matter how slight, might result in an entirely different outcome. Even if foretelling the future is sometimes plausible, the accuracy of the prediction will, I would suggest, generally decrease as the lead time increases.

... he [Shoghi Effendi] feels that the methods you are pursuing in regard to receiving inspired written messages, and your way of approaching your painting are really psychic, and that you should give them up for your own good. Some of Baháʾuʾlláh’s and ʿAbduʾl-Bahá’s Tablets are so poorly translated that it is almost impossible to grasp the true meaning, and one is misled into thinking that by getting into a practically psychic state the Holy Spirit will guide one. This is not what is meant: the world’s greatest writers and painters have not been under psychic influence, but through innate ability, practice and study, have given us their masterpieces; this is the normal way for inspiration to reach us, through the channels of our own abilities, and not through control by forces which the Master [ʿAbduʾl-Bahá] warned us against and which we do not understand, and which – as you yourself know – are neither consistent nor reliable.
From a letter, dated February 24, 1947, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1754.

Extrasensory perception (ESP) is, like Heartfulness Inquiry, a type of suggestibility. However, in Heartfulness Inquiry, the focus is upon the attraction of the heart, the center of love and emotion, to the Kingdom of God. Even as an association with self-deluded Covenant-breakers, or sometimes merely reading their literature, may expose the individual to harmful, yet appealing, suggestions of the lower self (so-called “contagion”), psychic  activity can make one suggestible to paranormal sensory powers, such as telepathy, precognition, and clairvoyance.

As regards the question you asked in your letter about a concealed group of masters in the Himalayas or anywhere else, there is no foundation whatsoever for this in the Baháʾí Writings. We as Baháʾís must not believe in the divine origin of any such things which have not been mentioned in our own Sacred Scriptures by either the Báb, or the Master [ʿAbduʾl-Bahá].
There is nothing whatsoever to lead us to believe that there is any foundation or truth in these mystical stories of beings that are “behind the scenes”, so to speak. We must avoid such thoughts and teachings, and try to wean others away from them as we give them the Message.
From a letter, dated May 11, 1954, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1763.

The following quotation is a pilgrim’s note and not, therefore, authentic or scriptural. It is, however, a fascinating primary historical record of how ʿAbduʾl-Bahá may have felt about the connections between psychic phenomena and suggestibility. He referred to automatic writing as “magnetism” or, apparently, mesmerism:

Question: What is the power used in automatic writing?
Answer: This power is neither heavenly nor spiritual; neither is it an influence from disembodied spirits. It is of the human spirit – magnetism within the self of the one doing the writing.
When the thoughts have taken possession of the mind and are not consciously directed, one becomes subject to their promptings and, unconsciously, or automatically, takes a pencil and writes them down. The oftener this is done, the stronger becomes the magnetic prompting.
For instance, one may learn a lesson or poem by heart, and he repeats and repeats it so often that the thoughts take possession of him, and he will repeat it unconsciously even in his sleep. This is magnetism belonging to the human spirit.
Or he may walk many times upon a certain road, and he takes his walk so often he is able to take it unconsciously or automatically.
This power is his own magnetism.
A mother rocks and rocks her babe to sleep in a cradle, but the thought of the child’s sleep may so take possession of her mind that sometimes she is able to put him to sleep without the aid of the cradle. This effect is produced by the mother’s magnetism.
In regard to the automatic writing, if one will pray very earnestly, and pray sufficiently, the mind will turn against the automatic writing, and one will be freed from the effects of that power.
Pray, and pray, and not be misled by the seeming beauty of the writings.
Helen S. Goodall and Ella Goodall Cooper’s pilgrims’ notes of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Daily Lessons Received at Akka: January 1908. Wilmette, Illinois: Baháʾí Publishing Trust, 1979. Pages 37-38.

An individual may easily, even unintentionally, cross the border from mysticism, or communion with God, to occult activity. Indeed, to some people, the two concepts are virtually identical. Numerous forms of magic, especially Hindū Tantrā (Sanskrit for a loom of doctrines) and branches of the so-called “New Age Movement,” focus upon, even require, psychic development. In the following paragraph, Shoghi Effendi, through his secretary, alerts Baháʾís concerning any involvement with Hindū occultism and the harmful suggestibility received through association with these occultists:

... such occult practices as certain Hindus have introduced in the States, and which some superficial and superstitious individuals have adopted and are trying, by all sorts of devices, to popularize, are absolutely foreign, nay positively opposed to the very spirit and letter of the [Baháʾí] Teachings, and the believers [Baháʾís], therefore, should strictly and at all times avoid the company of such people, lest they may unconsciously and inevitably fall under their baneful influence and become gradually alienated from the Cause [of God].
... The friends [Baháʾís] also should be warned not to indulge in such activities that draw their inspiration from Hindu occultist sources, as these do not only lead them away from the Cause [of God], but can cause them considerable mental harm, and thus permanently injure their mind as well as their body.
From a letter, dated August 5, 1939, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí. Lights of Guidance. Number 1773.

Furthermore, certain forms of enchantment can result from numerous substances and behaviors, sometimes producing dependency. Many of the victims of these harmful suggestions appear to be filling a sensation of inner emptiness with increasing stimulations. A partial list of these habits and addictions might contain: alcohol, gambling, nicotine, overeating, debt, sex, cluttering, procrastination, the Internet, online gaming, emotional difficulties, and mind-altering drugs. Within that last category are a variety of addictive and nonaddictive psychedelics consumed for spiritual purposes (entheogens).

As Marshall McLuhan insightfully wrote, “the medium is the message.” The addictive pseudo-unity  of social networking, fueled by websites such as Facebook  and Twitter, and wireless “texting” have, it appears to me, exchanged much of the depth of human relationships for superficial and coded half sentences. Personalities flatten. I see college students, raised on gadgets, wandering alone through campus while deeply engaged with their palms. Getting many of them to turn off their devices in class has become a significant behavioral issue. Yet, the ideology of the century appears, so far, to be apathy.

By enabling us to learn and profit from others, suggestibility and receptivity define our humanness. Sadly, not all cultural and social influences are helpful to one’s states of heart and mind. As a result, perhaps, of these addictive rewirings  of the brain (neurotransmission), an enormously wealthy industry has rapidly developed of specialized counselors, treatment facilities, and rehabilitation centers. In the event that meditation can, as has been claimed, be used in place of bad habits, the euphoria resulting from the positive addiction of devotional meditation would be a much more wholesome alternative.

Return to the table of contents.

V. Additional Precautions

Please bear in mind that the heartfulness meditation offered in this online text is a spiritual practice. It is not  intended as a substitute for any type of psychotherapy. In any event, I am a sociologist (specializing in religious studies, social theory, and clinical sociology) and a college professor. I am not  a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a social worker. (My Ph.D. is in sociology and history, not  in counseling.) Therefore, I can neither  diagnose medical conditions nor  treat health-related issues. If you are in need of such assistance, my advice is that you consult a properly licensed or certified therapist.

On the other hand, if Heartfulness Inquiry, or perhaps only a single aspect of this devotional meditation, brings about unwanted results, I would urge you to stop using it. I cannot  be responsible for any experiences which you may consider to be “negative.” Many other meditative systems are available, but I recommend  these practices. One way or another, you may, after looking around for a while, find an approach which is better suited to your own current needs and preferences. Generally speaking, however, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (U.S.A.):

Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched. People with physical limitations may not be able to participate in certain meditative practices involving physical movement. Individuals with existing mental or physical health conditions should speak with their health care providers prior to starting a meditative practice and make their meditation instructor aware of their condition.

Still, it is obviously impractical to remain under the intense spell of heartfulness meditation during certain daily activities. Through excessive serotonin production (so-called kuṇḍalinī), an individual may, in a manner of speaking, even “overdose” on spiritual intoxication and become sluggish. Considering that a proper balance might well vary from one person to another, my suggestion is to “experiment.” For what it’s worth, however, I can usually get back down to earth (“grounded”) by: reflecting, serving others, pursuing an unrelated interest, and even splashing water on my face.

Moreover, as I have gotten into the deeper states of my heartfulness meditations, I have noticed that, every once in a while, my muscles or joints will suddenly and rapidly twitch or jerk involuntarily. I am not alone. Others have discussed physical tremors which closely resemble my own. I have also personally  observed meditators as they were having similar muscular spasms, contractions, and sensations. In Catch the Fire, one of the newer and more interesting branches of the Christian Charismatic (neo-Pentecostal) movement, “quaking” experiences are connected with the “Toronto blessing.

At the beginning, I was fairly concerned by this unexpected development. Aside from being an Autistic person, I had two tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures back in the 1980s. Therefore, I wondered whether some deeper neurological issue might be involved. Although I am not, by any means, an expert in kinesiology, a field which is dedicated to the scientific study of human movement, my suspicion now is that each of these “quivering” reactions is a release of pent-up physical stress, tension, or anxiety. Clearly, I am more relaxed after, than before, meditation.

Avoiding hasty judgments may be a good idea. Forceless Remembrance  seemed, in my case, to result in unusual daytime sleepiness. At first, I decided to err on the side of caution, but I apparently jumped the gun. After briefly stopping the activity, my unusual tiredness, perhaps coincidentally, went away. Fortunately, I seem to have figured out the source of the problem: As a type-2 diabetic, I had become, on and off, careless in my dietary habits. That issue is now corrected, as is the difficulty with constant drowsiness. To dwell upon the obvious, your experiences might not be the same as mine.

Moreover, in personal relationships, meditation may result in a greater emotional sensitivity to the “mind games” many people play. Through my own meditative practice, I have become much more perceptive of these attempts at manipulation. They are, perhaps, most common on the Internet, but they regularly occur, of course, in face-to-face interactions, too. I have figured out an easily learned skill. It is played, unknowingly, by toddlers, and it can be extremely frustrating to their parents. Seemingly, then, the majority of us had acquired this ability early in our lives. It was lost, but it can be recovered.

I call this method, the “what?” technique. Here is how to do it: When you suspect that someone is playing a game with you, ask, “What?,” “What do you mean?,” “Say that again?,” “Oh?,” “Huh?,” or words to that effect. Since you are merely asking a question, you are not being rude. However, by making her second-guess herself, your response may put her off-guard and stop the game. From my own experience, it works quite well and helps to avoid quarrels. Since the “what?” technique can easily annoy the individual on the other end, my advice is to use it sparingly and sympathetically.

An approach which has a similar objective to the “what?” technique is to grunt, “Huh,” as if to say, “How fascinating.” Be cautious, however, that your tone of voice does not convey any passive-aggressive sarcasm. As suggested by an online friend of mine, one might respond to gossip and backbiting with an inquisitive, “Oh?,” by firming asking, “How can I help you?,” or say, affirmatively, “Uh, huh.” Then, if possible, immediately change the subject. By briefly distracting an individual from engaging in idle chatter, you can facilitate a more productive or spiritually centered conversation.

If, on the other hand, an individual brings up an inappropriate topic for discussion, or perhaps asks you an unwarranted question, you might respond, nondefensively, with, “That is an extraordinarily odd question to ask someone.” Hopefully, making such a firm statement will end the conversation in its tracks. Should, however, the person continue, you could follow up with moral outrage, “I am not going to even dignify that subject (or question) with a response.” By focusing upon behavior, you avoid attacking the other person. Being proactive is far better, in my view, than becoming reactive or angry.

One of the more common logical fallacies is called the ad hominem argument. A few hours ago, on an online message board, someone attacked another poster. After accusing the individual of being in denial, he told him to take an economics course. Of course, people pull these stunts all of the time. They get away with it by making the person defensive. I responded with words to this effect: “I realize that your comments were not directed at me. However, I thought that I would politely point out that, by attacking the other poster rather than addressing his ideas, you have just, by definition, lost the argument.” I successfully ended it.

I agree with the great boxer (and perhaps philosopher) Muhammad Ali (born, 1942), “Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.“ Similarly, the foreign policy of U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919) was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Be purposeful and direct but never vindictive. Similarly, Indeed, there is considerable bullying online and in the tangible world. I have discovered numerous successful, and hopefully respectful, ways to deal with these problems. One can be assertive and send a shot across the bow, through a kind of verbal judo, without being aggressive:

Verbal Judo is a series of tactics based on the principles of nonresistance. Rather than confront another’s antagonism, Verbal Judo teaches us to turn aggressiveness aside and to use the other’s energies to achieve positive goals.
George J. Thompson, Verbal Judo: Redirecting Behavior with Words. Westcliffe, CO: The Verbal Judo Institute, Inc. 2012. Kindle edition.

For instance, an old Baháʾí friend once advised me to remind people of the old adage (source unknown), “The evil thou seest in others, in thyself may be true.” I have also illustrated a tactic in this brief excerpt from one of my messages on a message board (from which I was later permanently banned):

It appears to you as though I am not being respectful. How have I not been respectful?
On the other hand, have you looked at some of the awful things that people on this message board have said to me? I am not a wimp. When people push me, I push back.
Mark A. Foster, “Harry Reid’s Freudian Slip?The Manticore Forum. May 15, 2013. Retrieved on May 20, 2013.

Frequently, I run into people, especially online, who make bigoted comments against one human population or another. Recently, someone claimed to me, on a message board, that he is not bigoted for hating Islām. Since many people are not self-reflective, situations of this sort can usually be handled simply and quickly. Often, I have found, the individual will be left, to one extent or another, speechless. As I wrote in response, “Why is that? ... Exactly [like hating Judaism]. Or hating Autism, Christianity, America, or whatever it is that one loves. Exposing bigotry is as simple as changing the noun.”

In this particular case, the individual responded that he is not bigoted for hating Judaism, and that he is ethnically Jewish. The world, he said, is full of repulsive ideas. I replied that he just defined bigotry:

bigotry /ˈbigətrē/
noun [mass noun] bigoted attitudes; intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself: the report reveals racism and right-wing bigotry.
– ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from bigot, reinforced by French bigoterie.
Oxford Dictionary of English. Third edition. Angus Stevenson, editor. Oxford: UK: Oxford University Press. 2010.
bigoted /ˈbɪgətɪd/
adjective having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others: a bigoted group of reactionaries | a bigoted article.
bigotedly adverb
Oxford Dictionary of English. Third edition. Angus Stevenson, editor. Oxford: UK: Oxford University Press. 2010.

Perhaps the best and most useful approach of them all, for dealing with issues in personal conversations, is tossing in some humor. You certainly do not need to be another Groucho Marx. However, if you are even reasonably quit-witted, turn the comments made by the other person into a joke. For instance, if someone insults you, agree with her. Then, either while laughing or with a straight face, make whatever was just said to you sound even worse. In other words, by constantly being heartful of one’s surroundings, the majority of problems of this type can be resolved fairly easily.

In any event, by permitting an individual’s poor behavior, you are exposing yourself, especially your inner heart, to unhealthful influences. Our time in this world is precious but limited, and we need to use every single moment to the greatest benefit of humanity and our own eternities. Furthermore, you are certainly not doing the other person any favors. If someone knows that, even though no one else will put up with her disunifying conduct, you are willing to let it go, she may have less motivation to change and improve. By reinforcing a bad habit, others could be hurt, in the long term, as well.

Ultimately, if anyone around you continues to be disrespectful, abusive, and disunifying, calmly, but firmly, express your feelings. Be direct and assertive without becoming angry, anxious, or vindictive. Address the behavior without attacking and bullying the individual. Simply say, assertively, “I cannot tolerate your actions,” not, aggressively, “I cannot tolerate you.” Do not be baited into a feud. Arguing against an insult is relatively easy. It is more difficult to disagree with someone else’s emotions.

Certainly, lying is not an acceptable form of discourse. To my knowledge, there is only one instance in which lying is described as permissible:

Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections and the cause of innumerable vices. There is no worse characteristic than this; it is the foundation of all evils. Notwithstanding all this, if a doctor consoles a sick man by saying, “Thank God you are better, and there is hope of your recovery,” though these words are contrary to the truth, yet they may become the consolation of the patient and the turning point of the illness. This is not blameworthy.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Pages 215-216.
As to the question whether it is right to tell an untruth in order to save another, he feels that under no condition should we tell an untruth but at the same time try and help the person in a more legitimate manner. Of course it is not necessary to be too outspoken until the question is directly put to us.
From a letter, dated December 21, 1927, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 2043.

Unfortunately, however, many people just throw around words such as this one without carefully and precisely defining them. For instance, one might pose this question, “Were the non-Jewish Germans who told the German officers that they were not hiding Jews justified in lying?” In my opinion, that person would be asking the wrong question. Those courageous individuals were not, I believe, lying at all. They were practicing justifiable deception. Such dissimulation or wisdom is, it seems to me, altogether a different issue from lying:

Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.
Baháʾuʾlláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Page 93.
The Báb, at the outset of His mission, explicitly prohibited tobacco, and the friends one and all abandoned its use. But since those were times when dissimulation was permitted, and every individual who abstained from smoking was exposed to harassment, abuse and even death-the friends, in order not to advertise their beliefs, would smoke.
The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Page 148.

Speculating on motives, however, is not, in my opinion, an appropriate topic for conversation. Even if you have a pretty good idea of a person’s intentions or psychological problems, your claims can simply be denied. The conversation will then become circular and heated. When all else fails, simply go away. Avoid the individual, if necessary, at least on an informal level. That said, stand up, in righteous indignation, to those who harm or oppress other people.

Return to the table of contents.

VI. Prayer and Meditation within Unities of All Things

Since Unities of All Things  is not Muslim, Heartfulness Inquiry  is not a Ṣūfī practice. However, in many of the branches (“sub-orders”) of a large and mostly Islāmic Ṣūfī tradition (the Naqšbandī tradition), as with Unities of All Things, meditative  or devotional  remembrance refers to the silent, or at most whispered, repetition of holy words or phrases. It is the heart  of Heartfulness Inquiry, and it has two varieties: watchful  and forceless. In addition to a daily, even a continual, communion with God, or meditation and prayer, our spiritual conduct should, in my opinion, express this state of divine remembrance.

Watchful Remembrance is an ecstatic, or a “blissful,” activity. A human soul is spellbound by the rhythms and repetitions of word and sound. Indeed, the remembrance of holy names can encourage a spiritually suggestible state of mind. While continuing with devotional meditation, one consciously, intentionally, and heartfully observes one’s feelings and ideas. By entering this prayerful condition of surrender to God (Allāh), the lover (al-muḥib) may be drawn, more closely, to the Best Beloved (al-Maḥbūb).

Ecstatic prayer is incomprehensible, unpredictable, inexplicable, and overwhelming, yet still functional. Its exemplars include Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇā, the Hindū gurū for whom the slightest catalyst would send him into a sometimes days-long rapture, and Saint Teresa of Ávila, the sixteenth-century nun whose visions led her to write what became official Vatican policy for discriminating between heaven-sent visions and those produced by demons or self-deception. From its emergence in the twentieth century as the world’s fastest-growing religious phenomenon, Pentecostalism has taken ecstatic prayer to massive proportions.
Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, Prayer: A History.

On the other hand, with the relaxation response, thoughts are never pushed  out of the mind. They are irrelevant. Upon becoming aware that one’s thinking has strayed from its course, one effortlessly returns to the mantrā. This method was developed following a clinical study of Transcendental Meditation® (TM®), an organization which has spawned a number of imitators. Similarly, in Forceless Remembrance, inspired by several related approaches, the heart is, using little effort, emptied of attachments. It is, afterwards, refilled through the disciplines of reciting, reading, contemplation, and reflection.

Personally speaking, my subjective experiences with these two forms of remembrance have been significantly different. Although Watchful Remembrance  has produced ecstatic states of consciousness, Forceless Remembrance  has been deeply relaxing. By the same token, many of our perceptions and requirements will undoubtedly differ. Therefore, with some people, one of these two heart-centered approaches might be more helpful than the other. These days, for instance, I only practice Watchful Remembrance.

Please note that Heartfulness Inquiry  has absolutely  no connection with the Transcendental Meditation® Program. Since I have never even taken that program’s introductory course, it goes without saying that I am totally unqualified  to provide guidance or instructions on any of the specific meditative techniques which are being taught in TM®. If, however, you wish to learn TM®, please visit one of their numerous homepages throughout the world. For those readers living in, or near, the United Kingdom, you may, as an alternative, view the websites maintained under the Meditation Trust.

In my contemplations, I frequently find myself passionately embracing and kissing the Soul of my Lord, Baháʾuʾlláh. He is Best  Beloved. I sometimes even try, inwardly, to touch the divine Attributes shining within Him or to bury my face in them. Being a Baháʾí is, to me, a human scientific love affair with the Promised One of all ages. The Religion of God is, at its core, mystical:

It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform. For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling which unites Man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Baháʾuʾlláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer merely to accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality which he can acquire chiefly by means of prayer. The Baháʾí Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man which has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Baháʾuʾlláh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed.
Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing.
From a letter, dated December 8, 1935, written by Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí. (Baháʾí News, number 102. August, 1936. Page 3.) Directives from the Guardian. Pages 86-87.
... meditation on the [Baháʾí] Teachings is ... a private individual activity, not a form of group therapy. In His talks ʿAbduʾl-Bahá describes prayer as “conversation with God,” and concerning meditation He says that “while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed!”
From a letter, dated September 1, 1983, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1836.

A Baháʾí House of Worship, as a center for prayer and meditation, is referred to in the Baháʾí Sacred Scriptures as a Mašriq al-Adkār. A literal translation of this Arabic term is dawning-place (rising-place or horizon) of the remembrances. Here, adkār (remembrances) is the plural form of dikr (remembrance). One might, therefore, say that a Baháʾí House of Worship is a home for remembrance or a Temple for the remembrance of God. Much as the exercise of remembrance can connect a devotee (murīd) with her heart  center, a Mašriq al-Adkār is the devotional heart  of Baháʾí community life.

We might prepare for the spiritual trials of our time by reflecting upon evangelical Christian stories of “inviting Jesus into one’s heart.“ Indeed, one of the most discussed attributes or characteristics witnessed in many of the “dawn-breakers,” the early followers of the Báb and Baháʾuʾlláh, peace be upon Them, in the East, was a capability to ecstatically withstand intense torture and painful martyrdom. Perhaps similar states of prayerful fervor and passion will be required of us during our own earthly lives. The following quotation, from dear Shoghi Effendi, was directed to Baháʾís in North America. He described them in this manner:

The community of the organized promoters of the Faith of Baháʾuʾlláh in the American continent-the spiritual descendants of the dawn-breakers of an heroic Age, who by their death proclaimed the birth of that Faith-must, in turn, usher in, not by their death but through living sacrifice, that promised World Order, the shell ordained to enshrine that priceless jewel, the world civilization, of which the Faith itself is the sole begetter.
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By. Page 7.

Prayers may be addressed to any soul:

O God, my God! I call Thee, Thy Prophets and Thy Messengers, Thy Saints and Thy Holy Ones, to witness that I have declared conclusively Thy Proofs unto Thy loved ones and set forth clearly all things unto them, that they may watch over Thy Faith, guard Thy Straight Path and protect Thy Resplendent Law. Thou art, verily, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise!
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, The Will and Testament of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá. Page 13.
... we must not be rigid about praying; there is not a set of rules governing it; the main thing is we must start out with the right concept of God, the Manifestation, the Master, the Guardian—we can turn, in thought, to any one of them when we pray. For instance, you can ask Baháʾuʾlláh for something, or, thinking of Him, ask God for it. The same is true of the Master or the Guardian. You can turn in thought to either of them and then ask their intercession, or pray direct to God. As long as you don’t confuse their stations, and make them all equal, it does not matter much how you orient your thoughts.
From a letter, dated July 24, 1946, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1486.

In the 1970s, when I was an undergraduate student at The University of Georgia, the ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), began a campaign called, “How’s Your Love Life?” The reference was to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Carnival-style machines, which supposedly measured one’s love life, were exhibited on campus. At the time, a cartoon appeared in the university’s student newspaper. The text read, “How’s Your Love Life? ... or how to sell religion like vacuum cleaners.” The remainder made reference to “Zelda,” a prostitute, short-circuiting the device. The organization requested an apology, but, as I recall, none was ever given.

Along similar lines, while meditation can, even when divorced from any spiritual objectives, often be beneficial, it has, in recent decades, been marketed and advertised, frequently using sexually provocative models, as a “feel-good” technique, a stress reliever, or an approach to physical and psychological wellness. People are told that, by regularly following certain costly instructions, by taking a series of expensive classes, by downloading a number of prepaid audio files, or by purchasing a collection of CDs or DVDs, they will, over time, become happier, healthier, or even wealthier.

Even though a disciplined application of meditation may produce many positive, even wonderful, experiences, meditation itself should not  be treated as merely a series of subjective observations. Rather, by engaging in the concentrated devotion of meditation, the human mind is trained to keep its attention upon the divine Attributes of Baháʾuʾlláh, the Best Beloved. Steadily, through unceasing effort and patience, spiritual receptivity may become a conscious habit. Thus, the fruit of a regular meditative practice can be a personal transformation and, together with it, a gradual reduction in egotism.

Meditation is  love. Unfortunately, some schools of meditation present, perhaps at times misrepresent, various research findings which allegedly demonstrate the superiority of their own methods of meditative practice over those of others. Consequently, for many individuals, meditation has been thoroughly disconnected from anything even remotely resembling spiritual development or devotion. Rather, in place of a genuine worship and compassion, we find merely another commercial medium for hedonism, or personal pleasure seeking, consumerism, and capitalist materialism.

In Unities of All Things, devotional meditation is regarded as a means for healing the human soul. The objective is a sustained receptivity, by the heart, to the Names and Attributes of God. This inclination toward anticipation, of a responsiveness to divine guidance, can best be promoted with directed thought and feeling, not by blanking  the mind. Indeed, heartfulness, prayer, remembrance, contemplation, and reflection are deep mental, as well as emotional, processes. Our human minds should, through considerable effort and persistence, be properly regulated, as well as educated, not silenced or repressed.

Although the word “meditation” is, in Arabic, ʾaql (Arabic for reason or, originally, restrain from immoderate conduct), regarding meditation as ordinary reason is contradicted by the following quotations, including the reference to being “taught to meditate.” Most people, for better or for worse, are not instructed in the practice of reason, nor do they worry about foolish and superstitious conceptions contaminating it:

... as the wise Sanáʾí hath written:
How can feeble reason encompass the Qurʾán,
Or the spider snare a phoenix in his web?
Wouldst thou that the mind should not entrap thee?
Teach it the science of the love of God!
Baháʾuʾlláh, “The Seven Valleys.” The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Page 52.
Through meditation the doors of deeper knowledge and inspiration may be opened. Naturally, if one meditates as a Baháʾí he is connected with the Source; if a man believing in God meditates he is tuning in to the power and mercy of God; but we cannot say that any inspiration which a person, not knowing Baháʾuʾlláh, or not believing in God, receives is merely from his own ego. Meditation is very important, and the Guardian [Shoghi Effendi] sees no reason why the friends [Baháʾís] should not be taught to meditate, but they should guard against superstitious or foolish ideas creeping into it.
From a letter, dated November 19, 1945, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí.

Meditation can, overall, illuminate the passageway to: acquiring virtues, understanding subjects or texts, recognizing opened doors, and hearing “a still small voice” (I Kings 19:12). To put it another way, one observes, and reacts to, life’s experiences with “a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind” (Baháʾuʾlláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, page 196). As one’s meditation develops, one may even perceive, and sense the “vibrations” of, the worlds of spirit or virtue. Nonetheless, as Shoghi Effendi wrote through his secretary (May 16, 1925):

We should test impressions we get through dreams, visions or inspirations, by comparing them with the revealed Word and seeing whether they are in full harmony therewith.

Likewise, according to ʿAbduʾl-Bahá:

Among spiritual souls there are spiritual understandings, discoveries, a communion which is purified from imagination and fancy, an association which is sanctified from time and place. So it is written in the Gospel that, on Mount Tabor, Moses and Elias came to Christ, and it is evident that this was not a material meeting. It was a spiritual condition which is expressed as a physical meeting.
The other sort of converse, presence and communications of spirits is but imagination and fancy, which only appears to have reality.
The mind and the thought of man sometimes discover truths, and from this thought and discovery signs and results are produced. This thought has a foundation. But many things come to the mind of man which are like the waves of the sea of imaginations; they have no fruit, and no result comes from them. In the same way, man sees in the world of sleep a vision which becomes exactly realized; at another time, he sees a dream which has absolutely no result.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Pages 253-254.

Moreover, with spiritual experiences, the most important issue to keep in mind, as I see it, is not whether a particular dream or vision was inspired. It is, through prayer and meditation (or deepening), developing a continuous inner awareness, or sense of connectedness, through communion with God, the Prophets, various departed souls, and other beings and entities. By regularly practicing Heartfulness Inquiry, the “hollow reeds” of our hearts may then be more receptive to whatever guidance or inspiration has been made available to us.

Like polish to a mirror, a consistent devotional practice, when accompanied by acts of service and reflection on the creative Word, will, slowly but surely, purify the heart and mind from faults of character. However, during devotional meditation, our human imperfections may be experienced as emotional pain or discomfort. Gradually, our sentiments, our thoughts, and, perhaps, even our dreams may, we find, become more godly and positive. This conquest of the lower self (egotism), on the whole and in relation to specific issues, can be an ongoing process.

... the poet hath, in allusion to this verse, stated that, though the revelation of my Best-Beloved hath so permeated my being that He is closer to me than my life-vein, yet, notwithstanding my certitude of its reality and my recognition of my station, I am still so far removed from Him. By this he meaneth that his heart, which is the seat of the All-Merciful and the throne wherein abideth the splendor of His revelation, is forgetful of its Creator, hath strayed from His path, hath shut out itself from His glory, and is stained with the defilement of earthly desires.
Baháʾuʾlláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Page 185.
Alas, a thousand times alas, that a Revelation so incomparably great, so infinitely precious, so mightily potent, so manifestly innocent, should have received, at the hands of a generation so blind and so perverse, so infamous a treatment! “O My servants!” Baháʾuʾlláh Himself testifies, “The one true God is My witness! This most great, this fathomless and surging ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.”
Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come. Pages 15-16.

Meditation, together with thoughtful prayer, is communion with the Best Beloved. Some Christian contemplatives, from several denominational backgrounds, have called their approaches to spiritual communion, “listening prayer.” Within the beautiful devotional traditions of Roman Catholicism, this type of inner dialogue, whether silent or spoken, is frequently referred to as internal, or mental, prayer. Throughout the histories of the churches, mental prayer has been associated, possibly more than anyone else, with St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582):

... mental prayer ... consists in thinking of what we are saying, understanding it, and realizing Whom we are addressing, and who we are that are daring to address so great a Lord. To think of this and other similar things, such as how little we have served Him and how great is our obligation to serve Him, is mental prayer.
St. Teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection. Page 74.
As far as I can understand, the door of entry into this castle [the soul] is prayer and meditation: I do not say mental prayer rather than vocal, for, if it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation. If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips.
St. Teresa of Ávila, Interior Castle.

By whatever names we call these practices of devotion, they can become a means by which the human heart and spirit are gradually attuned to heavenly vibrations  and to the Will of the Almighty Creator. Prayer and meditation, while focusing upon the Best Beloved, may prepare one for the life to come. Even so, the choice of a method for approaching the divine Presence may depend upon one’s background and temperament. Since an approach which works quite well for one person may, all in all, be entirely unsuitable for another, the exercises described in this work are only offered as suggestions.

Baháʾuʾlláh, the Blessed Comforter and Spirit of Truth, wrote:

The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men.... The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.
Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Pages 156-157.

From the Valley of Search, one discovers the love of the Best Beloved. Then a universe of valleys or virtues will unfold. As we pray, remember, and contemplate upon the higher self, our confidence in a life to come can increase significantly. Even more, we may, God willing, experience a closeness, emotionally and thoughtfully, to the next world and to the souls we had known on this plane of existence. Perhaps, over time, we will also develop a limited  degree of heart knowledge, one which surpasses any human language or intellectual understanding, concerning the splendors of the hereafter:

One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets are deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed....
Now there are many wisdoms to ponder in the dream ....
God, the Exalted, hath placed these signs in men, to the end that philosophers may not deny the mysteries of the life beyond nor belittle that which hath been promised them.
Baháʾuʾlláh, The Seven Valleys And the Four Valleys. Pages 32-33.
... the rewards of the other world are the eternal life which is clearly mentioned in all the Holy Books, the divine perfections, the eternal bounties and everlasting felicity. The rewards of the other world are the perfections and the peace obtained in the spiritual worlds after leaving this world ....
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 224.

At one time in my life, I regretted not having had the opportunity for fellowship with the Báb, Baháʾuʾlláh, ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, and some other great souls, peace be upon them all. When Shoghi Effendi died, in November of 1957, I was not even two years old. I realize now that having a physical meeting is not so important. Sadly, an old friend of mine from northern Virginia even ended our long comradery, since we had only chatted over the phone for 25 years. Spiritual connections which are established here are, in my opinion, everlasting. Through prayer and meditation, these relationships can develop right now and outlive this world.

Although our lives in this human world are our personal introductions to eternity, too much speculation upon this, or any, subject may be “vain imaginings.” Based on little more than my subjective feelings, there is no separation from the realms beyond. Within the spiritual kingdom, the attributes in this world and those in the next are closely connected. For lack of a better expression, departed souls might, in a sense, be here and all around us. Only a blink away from us, they have not, like our dreams, “gone” anywhere. Thank God, we are tethered to these bodies, these fleshly veils, just for a moment.

The consummation of this limitless universe with all its grandeur and glory hath been man himself, who in this world of being toileth and suffereth for a time, with divers ills and pains, and ultimately disintegrates, leaving no trace and no fruit after him. Were it so, there is no doubt that this infinite universe with all its perfections has ended in sham and delusion with no result, no fruit, no permanence and no effect. It would be utterly without meaning. They were thus convinced that such is not the case, that this Great Workshop with all its power, its bewildering magnificence and endless perfections, cannot eventually come to naught. That still another life should exist is thus certain, and, just as the vegetable kingdom is unaware of the world of man, so we, too, know not of the Great Life hereafter that followeth the life of man here below.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel. Page 14.
As the usefulness and powers of the life (of a child) were not seen in that dark and narrow world (of the womb), but when it is brought into this vast world, all the use of its growth and development becometh manifest and obvious in it, so likewise, reward and punishment, paradise and hell, and the requital of deeds and actions done by it in the present life become manifest and evident when it is transferred to the world to come—which is far from this world! Had the life and growth of the child in the womb been confined to that condition, then the existence of the child in the womb would have proved utterly abortive and unintelligible; as would the life of this world, were its deeds, actions and their results not to appear in the world to come.
Therefore, know thou that the True One possesseth invisible worlds which human meditation is unable to comprehend and the intellect of man hath no power to imagine. When thou wilt purify and clarify thy spiritual; nostrils from every worldly moisture, then thou wilt inhale the holy fragrances diffusing from the merciful gardens of these worlds.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Tablets of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá ʿAbbás. Pages 644-645.

Some people claim not to meditate. I would humbly suggest that they are, perhaps, using that term too narrowly. Broadly speaking, all of us meditate. In fact, we do so on a regular basis. The scientist meditates while developing the theories or explanations for her observations. Likewise, the contemporary artist ponders the physical universe using a visual analogy. Actually, in each of our lives, we are meditating from moment to moment. However, the focus of that meditation might not always be ideal, and, due to the absence of self-mastery, an individual may easily become distracted.

Moreover, given the reduction of ritualism in the Baháʾí Faith, the requirement of performing excessive, and often burdensome, recitations of remembrance, a common practice in some Ṣūfī orders, has been eliminated. With few exceptions (namely, the daily obligatory remembrance  of the Greatest Name, Allāhu Abhāʾ, ninety-five times and the instructions contained in certain prayers), the number of repetitions has been made an individual matter. Specific information on this subject is also available.

By following a schedule of regular meditation, a particular remembrance can become, over time, what is termed in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) an anchor. The concept is quite similar to behaviorist Ivan Pavlov’s conditioned stimulus and conditioned response. Through regular practice and patient persistence, silently repeating the remembrance may arouse the desired mentality. The human brain is, for better or for worse, an organ of habit. Its neurotransmitters or chemicals will respond favorably to repetition and conditioning.

Return to the table of contents.

VII. Reflections on Texts

When reflecting on anything, I usually get myself into a heartful or meditative state. After asking my heart questions, I pause to listen for any possible answer. Thoughts will sometimes occur to me

It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed....
Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit-the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation....
The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.
Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.
This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.
This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God.
Reported words of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Paris Talks. Pages 174-175.

Knowledge, particularly in electronics and medicine, is, through reflection, growing by leaps and bounds:

... O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12:4, American Standard Version (1901).
... the continued exponential growth of computing is implied by the Law of Accelerating Returns, which states that any process that moves toward greater order-evolution in particular-will exponentially speed up its pace as time passes. The two resources that the exploding pace of an evolutionary process-such as the progression of computer technology-requires are (1) its own increasing order, and (2) the chaos in the environment in which it takes place. Both of these resources are essentially without limit.
Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Viking (Penguin Group). 1999. Page 81.

One of the most important aspects of reflection was developed by sociologist and economist Max Weber (1864–1920) and by other German scholars as Verstehen (German, “to understand”). The methodology’s objective is to enter into the lifeworlds (German, Lebenswelten) of others while intersubjectively interpreting a social phenomenon through their own eyes. University of Michigan sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) utilized a similar concept, “sympathetic introspection.” More recently, University of Maryland sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (born, 1948) has referred to shifting the center of one’s thinking to the standpoint epistemologies (situated knowledges) of oppressed peoples.

Reflection is one of the seven steps of Heartfulness Inquiry. Specifically, I will discuss reflections on written texts. The quality of understanding an individual achieves can often be related to the approach she takes and, expecially, to the types of questions which are, or are not, asked about the text. Through careless and uncritical reading or by making unjustified assumptions about the subject matter, one may even, in a full circle, end up describing the text just read according to one’s original viewpoints.

During reflection, an individual should, in my opinion, keep a balance between propositional and presuppositional statements or concepts. A propositional statement is a prediction or, in formal research, a hypothesis. Propositions are contextual. They relate to the particular situation in which one is making the prediction. On the other hand, a presuppositional statement is an assumption. There is nothing wrong with having some  presuppositions, but too many of them may lead to circular thinking. Presuppositions should also not be pretextual or hidden from oneself and others.

As an illustration, within many religious movements, sacred texts are regarded as accounts of psychic foreknowledge or precognition. Their prophecies are viewed as fortunetelling. Despite failing, time and again, to accurately predict an alleged “Rapture” (referring to a miraculous translation, or transporting, of Christians into Heaven), speculations on it have continued. However, prophecies, in my view, are best appreciated, not analyzed. They are, as spiritual lessons, sources of encouragement and caution, not weather forecasts, and may, as in this quotation, be understood in hindsight:

In the Apocalypse, the appearance of the Promised One is appointed after forty-two months, and Daniel expresses it as three times and a half, which is also forty-two months, which are twelve hundred and sixty days. In another passage of John’s Revelation it is clearly spoken of as twelve hundred and sixty days, and in the Holy Book it is said that each day signifies one year. Nothing could be clearer than this agreement of the prophecies with one another. The Báb appeared in the year 1260 of the Hejira of Muḥammad .... There are no clearer proofs than this in the Holy Books for any Manifestation.... But failing justice, the people attack, dispute and openly deny the evidence, like the Pharisees who, at the manifestation of Christ, denied with the greatest obstinacy the explanations of Christ and of His disciples.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 71.

William Miller, founder of the Adventist or Millerite movement, predicted the return of Christ by the March equinox (March 21) of 1844. When, as he concluded, Christ did not appear, he recalculated to the following month. One of the more intriguing aspects of Miller’s eschatology (end-times theology) is that, even though his method of interpretation was entirely different from the one in His Exemplary Presence ʿAbduʾl-Bahá’s Some Answered Questions, Miller somehow discovered 1844. Similarly, many people, coming from various perspectives, have had premonitions about the present time. I wonder whether His Blessed Presence Baháʾuʾlláh is preparing, or warning, everyone about this centenary of the beloved Master’s journeys in the West.

Prophecies are moral guidance, warnings, and a means of preparation for the future. Although some people may claim that their religious scriptures accurately predicted the future, they are looking at those texts with an eye to the past. Mithra (Avestan, Miϑra, covenant), for example, appears to have been a Zoroastrian prophecy of Christ. Many Christians, for instance, will attempt to show how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. However, to what extent did anyone interpret those prophecies in exactly that way before His earthly Ministry? In effect, prediction and explanation are confused with one another. Explaining a prophecy after the fact is not the same as being able to explain it in advance.

From what I have personally observed, few people have embraced the Baháʾí Faith directly through Biblical prophecy. More commonly, particular interpretations of prophecy, such those provided in the late Hand of the Cause William Sears’ beautifully crafted Thief in the Night, are accepted either through the Baháʾí Faith or through the influences of individual Baháʾís. In many cases, an allegiance to the letter of prophecy becomes more of a hindrance than a help, but perhaps this spiritual dilemma has been divinely ordained:

Know verily that the purpose underlying all these symbolic terms and abstruse allusions, which emanate from the Revealers of God’s holy Cause, hath been to test and prove the peoples of the world; that thereby the earth of the pure and illuminated hearts may be known from the perishable and barren soil. From time immemorial such hath been the way of God amidst His creatures, and to this testify the records of the sacred books.
Baháʾuʾlláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán. Page 49.

Similarly, a particular manner of understanding prophecies can become the lens through which one views world affairs. Over time, explaining current events using one’s chosen approach to prophecy becomes self-confirming. One may almost automatically, even if unintentionally, discover what one expected to find at the beginning. This unfortunate situation would be yet another illustration of gnōstic self-delusion. Rather than living our lives according to magical systems of divination or fortunetelling, including the numerous approaches to scriptural numerology, we should be continuously open to God’s Will.

I raised some of the above issues in a Paltalk Christian chatroom on June 7, 2011. After pointing out the obvious, that numerous predicted dates have come and gone, several people, not unexpectedly, became defensive. One of the room regulars repeatedly typed, “The present is the future.” “No,” I responded, “the present is the present.” This individual was apparently assuming that, since he was capable of explaining the present in terms of certain prophecies, as he understood them, he was witnessing their fulfillment. Without clear critical thinking, explanation can be easily mistaken for prediction.

Furthermore, the point of any prophecy is made immediately upon its fulfillment. At that time, an individual, after an investigation, either accepts that the conditions of the prophecy have been satisfied, or she does not. If rejected, then the prophecy has, for that person, been proved utterly worthless. Sadly, her idle imaginings and self-desires have trumped the Will of God. In other words, the current Prophet (al-Nabī) and His successors, not the followers of an earlier Prophet, are invested with the authority to explain the prophecy and, ultimately, to establish a, possibly  thoroughly new, moral code.

Indeed, the veil, or dark cloud, of prophetic expectations may be compared to a fixation on the Prophetic social laws of a previous Dispensation (such as the Sabbath and times for fasting). Both have frequently prevented followers of a prior divine Revelation from accepting the latest one. To such people, the prophecy has been clearly demonstrated to have no value. They wait in vain for an event from the past. Because of these, as well as numerous other, reasons, one’s spiritual attachment should be to God Alone through His Divinities, the Prophets.

Prophecies might also be impending or conditional:

Know thou, O fruit of My Tree, that the decrees of the Sovereign Ordainer, as related to fate and predestination, are of two kinds. Both are to be obeyed and accepted. The one is irrevocable, the other is, as termed by men, impending. To the former all must unreservedly submit, inasmuch as it is fixed and settled. God, however, is able to alter or repeal it. As the harm that must result from such a change will be greater than if the decree had remained unaltered, all, therefore, should willingly acquiesce in what God hath willed and confidently abide by the same.
The decree that is impending, however, is such that prayer and entreaty can succeed in averting it.
Baháʾuʾlláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Page 133.
Fate is of two kinds: one is decreed, and the other is conditional or impending. The decreed fate is that which cannot change or be altered, and conditional fate is that which may occur. So, for this lamp, the decreed fate is that the oil burns and will be consumed; therefore, its eventual extinction is a decree which it is impossible to alter or to change because it is a decreed fate. In the same way, in the body of man a power of life has been created, and as soon as it is destroyed and ended, the body will certainly be decomposed, so when the oil in this lamp is burnt and finished, the lamp will undoubtedly become extinguished.
But conditional fate may be likened to this: while there is still oil, a violent wind blows on the lamp, which extinguishes it. This is a conditional fate. It is wise to avoid it, to protect oneself from it, to be cautious and circumspect. But the decreed fate, which is like the finishing of the oil in the lamp, cannot be altered, changed nor delayed. It must happen; it is inevitable that the lamp will become extinguished.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 244.

I realize that my explanations may be somewhat of an oversimplification. However, when it comes right down to it, we recognize a Prophet, similar to how we would recognize a close friend or relative, by His Attributes. Then, in my view, after having observed or witnessed these divine Attributes manifested in human form, one, only one, response can ever be acceptable. In this regard, the Best Beloved Lord, Baháʾuʾlláh, has provided for us something like a Baháʾí testimony of faith (šahāda, witness):

This is not the day for any man to question his Lord. It behoveth whosoever hath hearkened to the Call of God, as voiced by Him Who is the Day Spring of Glory, to arise and cry out: “Here am I, here am I, O Lord of all Names; here am I, here am I, O Maker of the heavens! I testify that, through Thy Revelation, the things hidden in the Books of God have been revealed, and that whatsoever hath been recorded by Thy Messengers in the sacred Scriptures hath been fulfilled.”
Baháʾuʾlláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Baháʾuʾlláh. Page 163.

Here am I. The basic problem, in my view, relates to our own human preconceptions, including our interpretations of prophecy. For example, influenced by religious leaders, the majority of the Jews in Ancient Rome apparently have had an picture in their minds of a “Messiah.” Since Jesus, as the Son of a carpenter, did not conform to that image, they rejected Him. Their attachment, unfortunately, was merely to a story, rather than to God, so they missed the heavenly Attributes shining from the Magnificent Jesus Christ.

O SON OF BEING! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation.
Baháʾuʾlláh, The Hidden Words of Baháʾuʾlláh  (Arabic). Number 59.

According to the Baháʾí International Community, even the field of dogmatic theology is out of step with the requirements of the present age:

In effect, each new stage in the progressively unfolding revelation of spiritual truth was frozen in time and in an array of literalistic images and interpretations, many of them borrowed from cultures which were themselves morally exhausted. Whatever their value at earlier stages in the evolution of consciousness, conceptions of physical resurrection, a paradise of carnal delights, reincarnation, pantheistic prodigies, and the like, today raise walls of separation and conflict in an age when the earth has literally become one homeland and human beings must learn to see themselves as its citizens. In this context one can appreciate the reasons for the vehemence of Baháʾuʾlláh’s warnings about the barriers that dogmatic theology creates in the path of those seeking to understand the will of God: “O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men.” In His Tablet to Pope Pius IX, He advises the pontiff that God has in this day “stored away ... in the vessels of justice” whatever is enduring in religion and “cast into fire that which befitteth it.”
Baháʾí International Community, One Common Faith. September 2006. Page 29.

Furthermore, the newer divine Revelation, placed into the historical and scriptural context of an older Revelation and its prophecies, can interpret them. That is to say, a Prophet, as a Mediator between God and man, physically  appears within the context of a former Revelation. He is an uncommon individual Soul, a Human Being in this world, Who manifests the Unity of God. Since He lives and communicates within that context, He can explain it and, at the same time, clarify any previous misunderstandings. By continuing to study the context of a Revelation, we will better grasp the Prophet’s words.

Many Baháʾís had a wakeup call in 2001. Based upon their interpretations of certain prophecies, they expected global political peace to be established by the end of the twentieth century. On September 11th of that year, four hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, into the Pentagon in northern Virginia, and in western Pennsylvania. Early the following month, the United States, supported by the United Nations, led a global coalition to war in Afghanistan. In 2003, ʾIrāq was invaded. Its government was toppled, and its president was eventually executed.

Prophecies are not, in my opinion, generally commands, instructions, or hypotheses. We are not, as human beings, expected to arise and fulfill prophecies. Our understandings of them may, for all we know, be inaccurate. Instead, we are told to be obedient and submissive under God’s Covenant. Although, according to the prophecy quoted below by ʿAbduʾl-Bahá and many others like it, medicine will be transformed in the future, Baháʾís are not told to abandon modern medicine. Knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures should continually be balanced by wisdom (ḥikmat) and common sense.

The science of medicine is still in a condition of infancy; it has not reached maturity. But when it has reached this point, cures will be performed by things which are not repulsive to the smell and taste of man–that is to say, by aliments, fruits and vegetables which are agreeable to the taste and have an agreeable smell. For the provoking cause of disease–that is to say, the cause of the entrance of disease into the human body–is either a physical one or is the effect of excitement of the nerves....
It is, therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, aliments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped. When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Pages 257-259.

Aside from specifically prophetic interpretations, reading unrelated texts as a whole can cause problems. For instance, many people believe that, by cross-referencing Biblical verses, they are demonstrating respect. Deceptively, the opposite is true. Say, after listening to you speak, I respond, “In order to understand your words, I will compare them with comments made by other people.” You would correctly consider me as discourteous to you and your ideas. Similarly, as a type of patchwork and deductive “theologizing,” cross-referencing disrespects the writers of particular texts and their contexts.

Biblical cross-referencers will frequently claim “the Bible” as their authority. Nonetheless, the actual authority is not the Biblical texts. Instead, it becomes the belief system, the basis for assembling particular verses, of the cross-referencer. The best evidence lies in the scope of gnōstic self-delusions among the individuals involved. There are numerous forms of Christianity which each claim to rely only upon the Bible (sola scriptura). In spite of the often striking differences in their interpretations, many of the followers of these contrasting movements appear to be thoroughly convinced of their accuracy.

This diversity of certitudes seems not to trouble a great many people. Part of the difficulty may relate to our use of the term, “the Bible.” There is no such text. There are numerous “canons,” or compilations, of texts used by various churches. Many Protestants, while having adopted a somewhat shortened Roman Catholic canon, deny the authority of the church which first canonized it. In any event, the widespread acceptance of the Biblical label has become a justification for cross-referencing. Instead of looking at a specific record, written at a particular time, the focus is upon a historical formulation.

Additionally, historical statements should, I believe, be clearly distinguished from those which are theological or scriptural. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is recorded in the New Testament texts. That account is, however, theological, traditional, or scriptural, not historical. There is no historical evidence for this event, among many others, which has been recorded in the Biblical manuscripts. Accepting the truth or “established fact” of various doctrines, on a theological level or based upon religious authority, is not the same as confusing them with carefully documented histories:

... the meaning of Christ’s resurrection is as follows: the disciples were troubled and agitated after the martyrdom of Christ. The Reality of Christ, which signifies His teachings, His bounties, His perfections and His spiritual power, was hidden and concealed for two or three days after His martyrdom, and was not resplendent and manifest. No, rather it was lost, for the believers were few in number and were troubled and agitated. The Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body; and when after three days the disciples became assured and steadfast, and began to serve the Cause of Christ, and resolved to spread the divine teachings, putting His counsels into practice, and arising to serve Him, the Reality of Christ became resplendent and His bounty appeared; His religion found life; His teachings and His admonitions became evident and visible. In other words, the Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body until the life and the bounty of the Holy Spirit surrounded it.
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 49.

By reflecting on the Holy Word, the critical, or representational, realism of the Baháʾí Faith becomes, in my opinion, devotional. Our indirect awareness of God’s Kingdom is centered in the heart. As we passionately love the divine Object of affection, our eternal souls will, through the grace of God, travel down the highway of knowledge. Similarly, we can become familiar with the Blessed Beauty by deeply cherishing His Being. Through silently and prayerfully mentioning the Greatest Name in our hearts, and contemplating His Attributes, our souls can draw progressively closer to Him.

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VIII. Conclusion

Heartfulness Inquiry is a type of phenomenological analysis. That is to say, the meditation dissects narratives of conscious experience. According to the late British critical realist Roy Bhaskar:

“… the deep interior of any moment or aspect of being or consciousness] can be established both by … phenomenological analysis of the genesis or constitution of any situation or complex in life; … [nonduality] can probably be established most easily only in a phenomenological or experiential way, as (most classically) in mystical experience …
Roy Bhaskar. The Philosophy of metaReality: Creativity, Love and Freedom. New York: Routledge imprint of Taylor & Francis Group. 2012. Kindle edition.

Critical realist Michael Schwartz has elaborated upon Bhaskarʼs reference to phenomenological analysis:

“… phenomenological analysis is necessary to move past the Husserlian exemplar, as made clear in Justin Hewistonʼs brilliant reading and extension of [Edmund] Husserlʼs transcendental reduction in light of meditation practice.
“If direct experience as the non-dual Self is an indispensable referent for transcendental argumentation, there are, phenomenologically speaking, degrees of such referentiality. People do not automatically or regularly experience non-duality deeply.”
Michael Schwartz, “MetaReality and the Dynamic Calling of the Good.” Journal of Critical Realism. Volume 14, number 4, August 2015. Pages 381–396.

In addition, Heartfulness Inquiry  is a human science methodology or style of discovery. Since most human science approaches rely upon direct observation or perception and make little or no use of statistics, they are more qualitative  than quantitative. In sociology, for example, people cannot be studied with the same degree of precision as gravity or laboratory rats. Because there is no single scientific method, a science  (Latin, scientia, knowledge) should refer to any systematic way of acquiring knowledge, whether in the humanities, such as philosophy and history, or in fields traditionally labeled as “the sciences.”

Although there are numerous qualitative approaches in the human sciences, I developed Heartfulness Inquiry as the basic research methodology in Unities of All Things™, in The Institute for Dialectical metaRealism™, and in The MarkFoster.NETwork™ as a whole. Heartfulness Inquiry  resembles other human science research designs, such as heuristic inquiry, intuitive inquiry, individual lived inquiry, integrated inquiry, integral inquiry, mindful inquiry, organic inquiry, autoethnography, participant observation, and others. Because Heartfulness Inquiry  might be helpful to those who are not academic researchers or theorists, it is freely offered on this website as one of my clinical sociology practices.

The approach used in Heartfulness Inquiry, explained in two back-to-back shows from Internet my Internet radio program (MP3 audio file), was strongly influenced by the Bhakti-Ṣūfī movement10 of South Asia (approximately 800-1700 A.D.). That movement, which brought together, in unity, many predominantly subaltern (dominated and marginalized) populations of both Hindūism and Islām, included such luminaries as Ḥaḍrat Sulṭān Bāhū (1628-1691 A.D.), Gurū Nānak (1469-1539 A.D.), and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu (1486-1534 A.D.). In my opinion, the Bhakti-Ṣūfī movement was the finest fruit of the Golden Age of Islām.

Heartfulness Inquiry also utilizes a similar method to the immersion technique in learning foreign languages. One becomes meditatively incarcinated by the subject – through an absorption in prayer, remembrance, and contemplation – becoming its temporary captive. Then, after liberation, one steps back and examines the issue more reflectively, empirically, critically, and analytically:

If one wants to swim he should enter the water, one cannot learn to swim in the desert even if he studies for years.
The Method of Immersion.” BBC: British Council. May 12, 2012. Retrieved on June 2, 2012.

For individuals who are not members of the Baháʾí Faith, or are not familiar with most of its basic teachings, I created a simplified version of Heartfulness Inquiry called The Echoing Practice. While it is primarily intended for Autists and a part of my Autistic activist website, United Against Neurelitism, The Echoing Practice can, I believe, be used by almost anyone else, too. In discussing The Echoing Practice, I open about its Baháʾí inspiration. Readers are invited to read this book. However, only a few actual references to the Baháʾí Faith have been included in The Echoing Practice.

As a methodology and a practice, Heartfulness Inquiry  has been carefully prepared to increase the heart’s receptivity to virtues or perfections. Through consistent effort, each of us, while drawing closer to the Presence of God, may experience peace, joy, and the ecstasy of devotion. Any divine guidance which may be given to us will, more and more, be recognized and accepted with greater ease and with a higher degree of spiritual certitude. In short, devotional prayer and meditation can help to purify the human soul. Many of the scratches and stains appearing upon it shall be gradually wiped away.

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1 I am not fluent in Arabic, but I can work with it. Unless otherwise stated, all English translations are from the Arabic or Persian languages (or, in some cases, a “Persianized” Arabic). There are differences, which will be evident, between the system of transliteration, or romanization, of Arabic and Persian words contained in official Baháʾí texts and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) system (or the Tiberian system for some Hebrew words) adopted in other parts of this work. (See this page on verb conjugation.) Diacritics (the signs used in transliteration) for various languages have sometimes been modified in quotations. Focusing on both translation and transliteration has, from my perspective, been a way to draw close, in my heart, to the individuals and ideas being discussed. Perhaps your experiences will be similar. Learning any “tongue” comes through love:
Speak in the Persian tongue, though the Arab please thee more;
A lover hath many a tongue at his command.
From Mawlānā (Our Master) Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī’s Maṯnawī (Persian, Maṯnavī), quoted by Baháʾuʾlláh, “The Seven Valleys.” The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Page 58.

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2 Allāh (ﷲ) is the usual Arabic Baháʾí and Ṣūfī title for “the God” (Deity). (On the Īrānian flag, Allāh is represented calligraphically, or using fancy lettering, as .) ʾIlāha, “God,” is Allāh without the definite article (al). Both of these words are related to (cognates of): the Aramaic, ʾĔlāhā (“Mighty One”), the Hebrew, ʾĔlōah (“Mighty One”), and the more common plural form of ʾĔlōah, ʾĔlōhîm (“Mighty Ones”). The word, Allāh, is seen in, for instance, Baháʾuʾlláh (Bahāʾ Allāh, the Glory or Splendor of God) and Rūḥ Allāh (Spirit of God, a term for Jesus). Many Baháʾís regularly greet each other in the (Greatest) Name of the Most Glorious Allāh (Allāhu Abhāʾ).

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3 Tawḥīd and, its opposite, širk refer to the Baháʾí and Ṣūfī declaration that, since God (Allāh) is One (Tawḥīd, “Unifying” or “monotheism ”), He Alone (širk, “sharing as an equal partner ”) should be worshipped. Specifically, in Unities of All Things , the Unity or Oneness (Tawḥīd) of the Prophets is  the Oneness of God and His Essence. That Essence, or Unity, can be worshipped in the (Greatest) Name of the Best Beloved Lord, Baháʾuʾlláh. The popular view of širk as either “polytheism,” the worship of more than one God or Goddess, or “idolatry,” the worship of objects or images, while not always  incorrect, is an oversimplification.

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4 The verb, sallam, is “to surrender.” It is related to the nouns, Islām (“surrender”), Muslim (“surrendered one”), and salām (“peace”). These words, among others, share the Semitic root, S-L-M (in Arabic, sīn-lām-mīm), which may be translated as, for instance, “whole,” “peace,” “safe,” “well-being,” “intact,” and “surrender.” Šālôm  (or “shalom”), a Hebrew noun for “peace,” is from the same root (in Hebrew, šīn-lāmed-mēm). True peace is found by surrendering one’s heart (or free will) to the Best Beloved.

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5 ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, the Mystery of God, was, like the Prophets, the Perfect Man (al-Insān al-Kāmil). Nevertheless, He was not  a Prophet. I address this paradox in a brief compilation.
... in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.
Revelation 10:7. American Standard Version (1901).

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6 An interfaith version of Breathing Baháʾuʾlláh™  (YHWH) is Breathing the Prophet. It was developed for Autists, but others may find it helpful, as well. YHWH is the Hebrew Tetragrámmaton (Greek for “a word with  four letters”). It is commonly spelled as either “Yahweh” (Hebrew, Yāhweh) or “Jehovah.” That second English-language term was modified from the Hebrew, Yăhôwāh, in the Māsôretic TaNaḤ (a version of the Jewish Bible). According to the most common explanation, this version’s editors placed the vowels from the title, ʾĂdônāy (Hebrew for majestic  Lord), into YHWH.

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7 An example of a recited quotation would be:
... the Divinity of God, which is the sum of all perfections, reflects itself in the reality of man ....
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 196.

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8 These attributes are discussed in the book, The Unicentric Paradigm. You may, if you wish, view the model by itself (without any additional explanations).

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9 Qì (sometimes spelled chi or ki) is, in the original Chinese, breath, air, spirit, or gas. However, in Japanese, the same word, qì, can be translated as atmosphere, feeling, mind, or heart. Prāṇa, Sanskrit for breath or vital life force, has a similar definition to the Chinese qì.

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10 Bhakti is Sanskrit for engagement, allocation, apportionment, or devotion. The derivation of Ṣūfī is contested. However, the most widely accepted academic view is that the word comes from ṣūf (wool). Thus, a Ṣūfī would be a “woolen one,” indicating the garments in which certain Ṣūfīs once clothed themselves.

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